The Metals, #2
I’ve been reading this book on and off ever since it came out, in November last year. It is both one of the strangest and one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The writing is intensely visual, and there are constant allusions to a exotic and mysterious lands hidden just behind the folds in reality.
This is the second book in the series, and it takes over where the first one ended.
Ava Sandrino is a paper-house girl from New Dera. Together with her wraith lover, her neighbor, and her neighbor’s son, she’s forced to flee her home town in a ship full of contraband brimstone. On their way into the Northern Dark the ship is attacked and sunk by river ghosts, and Ava’s companions begin to fall out of the story – some intentionally, some mysteriously.
Later, Ava as hired by Lady Gunpowder to be lamp bird for the One O’clock King, and then things start getting weird.
If there’s such a thing as psychedelic fantasy, this would be it. This is not an easy read, and as a visual reader, the amount of imagery triggered by ever single sentence can get overwhelming. It’s partially why it’s taken me so long to read it. It’s sat on my nightstand, and I’ve picked it up to read between other books, or when everything else has felt flat and gray.
This book is a colorful brain massage.
On the flip-side, I don’t know if a non-visual reader will be able to enjoy this. The rich imagery is part of what makes the reading experience special, and without being able to see what’s described, the book may not make much sense.
What I’ll whine about
The prose, while beautiful, overshadows the story. There’s so much happening on the detail level that it’s hard to keep track of the big picture.
Admittedly, taking nearly eight months to read may be a factor here, but I don’t know that I could have read it faster if I tried. I’ve enjoyed savoring it a little bit at a time, but I wouldn’t be able to binge it over a weekend.
What I’ll gush about
I’ve already mentioned the visuals, so I won’t go into that again. Let’s just say they’re amazing.
The other thing that I want to call out is the setting and the atmosphere. It’s difficult to separate the two, because a lot of the atmosphere comes from how the world building is woven into the prose. The setting is such that several worlds (including our own) overlap and connect, and everything is referred to in a way that makes it feel exotic and mysterious. From Rome and Jakarta to the Salt Pillar Isles and the black-market kingdoms.
On top of that, nothing – ever – is explained directly. Now and then, little nuggets of information appear, and it’s like a puzzle piece falling into place, but it’s not the norm. A lot of the time, you just need to stop resisting, stop asking questions, and stop trying to make sense of things. This story is going places and you’d better hold on if you want to enjoy the ride.
This book is weird, strange, and wonderful, but it’s not for everyone.